Harris Academies
All Academies in our Federation aim to transform the lives of the students they serve by bringing about rapid improvement in examination results, personal development and aspiration.

Ski Trip 2015

Here you will be able to follow our skiers on their journey to Switzerland! Check back for daily updates and photos of their time on the piste!

Introduction:

Ten students, three teachers and one amazing mountain range (the Swiss Alps!) is all that is needed for the inaugural Harris Academy Morden ski trip (February 2015)!  This small but elite unit have stepped up to rise to the challenge of learning to ski during AEE week. They have applied themselves with no fear and lots of enthusiasm.  

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Day 1 (7/2/15):

An excited group of students and a nervous group of parents attended the pre-trip departure briefing before we faced challenge one – fitting all of the people and luggage on to the minibus to get to the airport!

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Our ski resort:

This is our view from our chalet in Torgon, Port du Soleil, looking out into the valley with the alpine village of Aigle nestled in the foothills.  We are a few kilometres from the French border so depending on how our skiing comes along we will be crossing into France for an afternoon one day soon…  The snow is fresh and deep, the weather is sunny and warm (around 2 degrees Celsius) and spirits are high… 4 more days to go… We are not going to want to leave!

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Day 2 (8/2/15):

Staff went into boys’ room at 7.30am to 'wake them up' but they had apparently been awake since about 5am - excitement levels are far too high to be sleeping!  The girls were slightly less keen (they had only been up since 6.30am!)  After a basic, alpine, buffet breakfast we were kitted out with ski boots (very hard to walk in!), poles and helmets.  We then made our way slowly to the slopes to meet our instructor, Sander. In the first session we learnt the basics and started getting used to the feel of being in skis, moving about and most importantly slowing down and stopping!  Although this was harder for some than others we all kept picking ourselves up and trying again. The first ski lesson flew by and following a quick lunch we were back out where we learnt how to use the baby lift and started to develop our skills further.

By the end of the day we had some very tired beginner skiers who were very much in need of the tea and cakes waiting for us at the Goldtest centre.  We showered, compared bruises and started to feel the muscles in our legs that we never knew we had!  The boys were so tired they went straight to bed after a hearty dinner but the girls, who had probably planned their sleeping better, got involved in the roller disco showing off their skills before going to bed for a deep sleep!


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Day 3 (9/2/15): 

This morning we went in at 7.30am to wake the students up and they were all sleeping soundly, even the boys!  After breakfast we got to the slope a little earlier and nearly everyone managed to get their boots on without help.  Sander decided that he was going to push us so we had not only tried backwards skiing before lunch but had also started using the button lift (which the intermediate skiers use!)  Lots of progress is being made (with the occasional slip, slide and snowy face along the way).  After lunch we started getting to the serious business of doing slalom turns slightly higher up the slope.   Although this was hard, everyone kept at it although by now some skiers had started getting additional support from staff from the Ski Company - these smaller group sessions really helped and by the end of the day everyone had made good progress. 


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After another big dinner we went out in snow shoes with flaming torches for a walk into the forest at the edge of town.   The stars were twinkling, the trees were ghostly in the flickering to rch light and the silence was broken only by the sound of excited but hushed voices.  Once all safely home we had a hot chocolate and went straight to bed for another deep sleep!


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Day 4 (10/2/15):

Students were all up and ready to go at the later 8am start. After breakfast we continued our journey up the slope - lucky for us the weather was still amazing!   Most of us had now reached the fifth pylon! This meant quite a steep slope but Sander assured us that going across the slope “isn't very steep after all”.  He was right!  Rolling down the slope with one ski was still quite steep though as Mr. Pritchard soon discovered. We continued to practise our turns and became more and more confident to the extent that we were freely moving up and skiing down the slope with ease by lunch.  This continued after lunch with some additional skills being taught (such as slowing down without using the snowplough position).


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At 3pm Sander laid down the ultimate challenge:  who was brave enough to attempt to ski all the way down the slope?  Half the group were up for it, so we took the button lift to the last pylon, lined ourselves up and prepared for the descent (after a quick photo shot of course!) We were all very nervous as it was a long way down!  Sander led us down stopping at regular intervals (usually coinciding with a tumble) but slowly but surely (and much slower than the groups of 7-10 year olds gliding in graceful snakes past us) we made the thrilling journey and there were high fives all around - challenge accepted and completed!  We are now ready for the next slope!  After all of that excitement, we attempted a mini obstacle course which only two people completed without falling and Mr. Pritchard achieved the ‘wipe out’ of the week so far - including leaving a ski stuck on a ramp and a somersault. Thankfully the snow was nice and soft when he landed! 

At 4pm we returned to the chalet, had tea and cake and then decided to take a trip to the only shop in the village to buy some snacks.  After some quick showers and burgers for dinner we then took on the climbing wall!   We all had plenty of turns and with the automatic belay machines, the jumping off the wall and being lowered slowly to the ground - it was almost as much fun coming down as was the satisfaction of making it up in the first place!  Everyone got involved and managed to climb at least one of the routes.  All in all, another fantastic day followed by the deep and restful sleep of the happy, exhausted and exhilarated.  
 

Day 5 (11/2/15):

Following a quick bus ride we arrived in Plan de Croix which has a much wider range of runs and a couple of chair lifts to boot!  Today was judgement day!  Those who felt brave enough ascended the main button lift half way up the mountain.

The group that went with Sander were going to face their toughest challenges yet.  As it happened the main challenge turned out to be the button lift up the mountain.  Those of us who made it waited for Sander and then went down an extremely exciting run where we  started getting more speed up and began to learn how to do parallel turns (whilst stopping to pick up the stragglers from the ski lift en route).  As confidence was high and the speed was building, Sander decided to test us with some small jumps and a bit of off-piste skiing.  Many falls followed but thankfully the snow is much softer and deeper off-piste (getting back on the skis however was much more of a challenge!)

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After lunch Sander's group learnt how to use a chair lift and were treated to spectacular views across the Swiss Alps at the height of 1750m - all the way to Lake Geneva! 

The bus ride back to Torgon was a slow and cramped affair with some very tired and sore people (not only bruises from falling but from the rub of the extremely tight ski boots required to protect your ankles when skiing).  After some hot soup, tea and (you guessed it) more cake, the final decision of the day had to be made: to ski in the dark without poles with only the light of a flaming torch to guide, or not…  Three brave souls volunteered.  There were some nerves, but all the students made it down smoothly without setting themselves or anyone else ablaze and all agreed that it was an amazing experience being part of the flaming ski snake! Another epic day in Switzerland.  Lights out at 9.30 tonight!

Day 6 (12/2/15):

Another challenging and exciting day... We were reunited as a large group again which was great and we had another instructor with us (Luke) who was able to support the least confident skiers.  Having warmed up on the relatively easy part of the Djeu des Têtes run we progressed to the very top and successfully skied a blue run to the bottom of the next and greatest challenge to date, a now notorious button lift.  True to form a certain unnamed trooper lost balance, slipped and began to slide down the slope into the path of the next of our skiers who promptly also fell off.  The lift was stopped as a lift operator came to their rescue.   Once the lift began again, we had another tumble from a female student this time who again collided with a friend both of whom came to rest near the first boys having also managed to dislodge a ski from final team member who impressively made it to the top anyway. 

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Following this rather dramatic but ultimately harmless (and frankly hilarious) incident, it was the scenery's turn to take our breath away as we skied a path down the valley with awe inspiring views to behold.  This was a beautiful stretch of skiing as it was well within our comfort zones and everybody had a smooth and memorable ride to the chairlift which took us to the restaurant where we stopped for lunch.  It would be wrong to not mention the fact that the chairlift was simply staggering giving us views across the Alps all the way to Mont Blanc the tallest mountain in Europe. 

After lunch we had a long descent down the mountain which involved a small section of black run (which went better than even Sander expected) and all of us were demonstrating all that we had learnt over the last 5 days.  Our evening entertainment alpine extravaganza of fireworks, skiing, die jugglers, an exhibition from an avalanche rescue dog, snow mobiles, an awesome piste basher (the machine that helps make the slopes good to ski by smoothing them out each night) and as the finale a parachutist who landed onto the slope in skis!  The highlight was probably the snow mobiles which were passing the crowd close enough to high five our students much to their raucous delight!  It was extremely cold so some of the group resorted to an Alpine apple tea to keep warm, but despite the cold everyone had a memorable last night in Switzerland.
 

Day 7 (13/2/15):

Today Sander took us back up the route we went yesterday but rather than going down the slow paced mountain path with the amazing view on the left we went straight down the slope with the chair lift on (and the amazing view straight ahead).  As a team we made ski trip history by making it up to the slope without anyone falling off, let alone causing a pile up on the button lift.  Despite the reluctance of one member of the group who ended up getting a piggy back from Sander, on the whole the group did really well and were skiing confidently down the blue run. Impressive stuff considering their starting point earlier in the week!  With the descent completed we rode the chairlift one more time to have lunch in the restaurant at the summit. 

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The final descent was a beautiful journey with far fewer collisions and crashes than the previous day (but the hilarity of some of these incidents was of the highest order!) We have all learnt, from experience that falling over does not hurt (that much) and that all you need to do is get straight back up again after.

We are now waiting in the airport for our delayed flight (it is Friday the 13th so hoping the delay is not too long), everybody is extremely tired but contented knowing they have learnt how to ski and have had a fantastic adventure that they will remember for the rest of their lives. I for one cannot wait for next year!

Harris Academy Morden, the students and the parents would like to say a massive thank you to Mr Pritchard for organising such an amazing opportunity and to Ms Sweeney and Ms Stow for bringing them all back in once piece!

Watch this space for details of our next trip…

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